Thursday, October 2, 2008

Complacencies of the Peignor

That's a line from one of my favorite poems by Wallace Stevens. It's called "Sunday Morning."

And here's another:

In the Carolinas

The lilacs wither in the Carolinas.
Already the butterflies flutter above the cabins.
Already the new-born children interpret love
In the voices of mothers.

Timeless mother,
How is it that your aspic nipples
For once vent honey?

The pine-tree sweetens my body
The white iris beautifies me.

That one makes me think of scribbled notes in small rooms in the fall.

Wallace Stevens sold insurance for a living and lived in a modest house in the suburbs of New Haven. I drove by the house once with someone I knew, and we rolled down our windows and sat in the car and stared at it for a while. Evidently, Wallace wore a hat when he went to work (this was the forties?) and carried a briefcase. He walked back to his home and his wife, thinking about winter and ideas of order in Key West. He scribbled his poetry on scraps of paper, in between selling insurance.

His poems are wild and weird and I love them. They make me feel old and wise, like my brain has to work and it has nothing to do with me. They make me laugh and have butterflies in my stomach. The exhilarating kind where your nerves are on fire. Like this:


That strange flower, the sun,
Is just what you say.
Have it your way.

The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.

That tuft of jungle feathers,
That animal eye,
Is just what you say.

That savage of fire,
That seed,
Have it your way.

The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.

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